Planned Glamour Studio Complex Wows Fashionistas, Not CB1

Rendering of Spring Studios at 50 Varick St., which will feature multiple photo studios, a bar and restaurant, 80-seat theater, and rooftop event space. Courtesy of Adjmi & Andreoli

The drab former-Verizon building at 50 Varick St. is about to undergo a makeover so fashionable that community board members worry the street may not be able to handle the paparazzi and crowds it could draw.

“Your application sort of caused a lot of consternation here because you have a public assembly capacity of 3,027,” Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee Chair Peter Braus told applicants from Spring Studios on Wednesday. “We’ve never even seen an application that large before.”

The application is for a liquor license for Spring Studios, a London-based advertising and production company that plans to transform the building into a multi-floor “creative complex” with expansive, sky-lit spaces for photo shoots along with post-production suites, a sixth-floor restaurant and rooftop event space. It will occupy the first, fifth, sixth, and seventh floors of the building, as well as the roof—nearly 50,000 square feet. Each floor has the capacity for about 800 people.

Nearly a dozen representatives of Spring Studios appeared at the meeting to ask the committee’s support for the license, with a 4 a.m. closing time, seven days a week. They came armed with letters of support from a who’s who of the fashion world: Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs, Diana von Furstenberg, Vera Wang, and Anna Sui, among others.

The studio's hired security firm, boasting clients such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and the Kardashian family, submitted detailed crowd-control plans to the board that even included where pens will be erected to contain paparazzi.

Despite Spring Studio’s glamorous connections and potential for high-profile soirees, David Hemphill, the company’s director of events, played down the partying part of the facility.

“Events will be few and far between and we shouldn’t expect an event to be much more than 300 people at a time,” Hemphill said. “We have a lot of square footage in the building, but it’s mostly for photo shoots.”

Nevertheless, some committee members voiced concerns. “This is going to impact the community and if anybody believes they are not going to have a party with 800 people or more, there’s a bridge right over there you can sell,” said committee member Marc Ameruso, nodding in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. “It’s just too big a venue and too big a risk to the neighborhood.”

In addition to the production spaces, a restaurant and bar, aimed at serving workers and clients, will occupy the sixth floor. Hoping to assuage concerns about even more crowds, liquor lawyer Warren Pesetsky said it will be open to the public, but only because it has to be.

“If the law would let us say it is only for the people who work there, we would be happy to do that,” Pesetsky said, explaining that the state will only issue liquor licenses to public establishments. “We don’t have to advertise it. My guess is there will never be a member of the public in that space."

Representatives for the project said they would return to the committee next month to discuss more limited hours for the roof (the original request had the roof open until 2 a.m.) as well as placing a limit on the number of events they would host at the building each year. The committee is withholding its advisory vote on the license until then.

“I think the project sounds cool,” Braus said. “[But] I would be opposed to giving you guys these types of hours right out of the box.”

“We don’t know you guys,” he added. “You haven’t established yourselves in our neighborhood.”